Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Wellbeing: The Dignity of Work

Every day I've tried to salvage some of my pride,
To find some work so's I might pay my way
But everywhere I go, the answer is always no,
There's no work for anyone here today,
No work today.
...For as long as I live, I never will forgive,
You've stripped me of my dignity and pride
You've stripped me bare.

- Christy Moore, "Ordinary Man," Ordinary Man (Walker Music UK Ltd, 1985).*

In the Gallup-published Wellbeing, I came across an interesting and important piece of information regarding work and well-being. The authors Tom Rath and Jim Harter explore five essential elements to overall well-being:
  • Career Wellbeing - how one's time is occupied.
  • Social Wellbeing - the strength of one's relationships.
  • Financial Wellbeing - effectively managing one's economic life.
  • Physical Wellbeing - having good health and enough energy on a daily basis.
  • Community Wellbeing - engagement with the area in which one lives.

In regards to Career Wellbeing, Rath and Harter reveal this significant point about the need to work:

The Impact on WellbeingOne of the more encouraging findings [of one study] was that, even in the face of some of life's most tragic events like the death of a spouse, after a few years, people do recover to the same level of wellbeing they had before their spouse passed away. But this was not the case for those who were unemployed for a prolonged period of time -- particularly not for men. Our wellbeing actually recovers more rapidly from the death of a spouse than it does from a sustained period of unemploymentThis doesn't mean that getting fired will harm your wellbeing forever. The same study also found that being laid off from a job in the last year did not result in any significant long-term changes. The key is to avoid sustained periods of unemployment (more than a year) when you are actively looking for a job but unable to find one. In addition to the obvious loss of income from prolonged unemployment, the lack of regular social contact and the daily boredom might be even more detrimental to your wellbeing.[1]

The authors connect our career--what we do day in and day out--to our identity, making one's work "arguably the most essential of the five elements."[2] Human flourishing and dignity are connected to one's work in this life. I imagine it will continue in the next.

This information will certainly find its way into my upcoming paper at the Faith & Knowledge Conference.

*Thanks to Allen Hansen for showing me this song.


1. Tom Rath, Jim Harter, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements (New York: Gallup Press, 2010), 17-18.

2. Ibid., 16.

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